Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Beautified

L to R: Rob Browstein, Karen Austin, and Joanna Strapp.  Photo by Ed Krieger.
presented by Katselas Theatre Company

review by Andrew Moore

We follow the friendship of Mike, a hair stylist, and Candy, one of his clients, over four decades of marriage, divorce, denial, self-honesty, addiction, sickness, grief, and personal triumphs.  What emerges is a eulogy for a certain type of person: a contradiction in terms defined by both his excesses and his devotion to others.  It is a lovingly rendered work that largely succeeds in spite of a few issues.

Tony Abatemarco plays with the theatrical form, breaking the fourth wall, allowing the booth to interject.  In one instance Candy says "Mike and I socialized one time ..." only to be immediately corrected by Mike who yells from backstage, "Twice!"  This informality conveys a sense of the beauty parlor rapport that Mike and Candy share.  Their voices are distinct, and we see their evolution as people as the play whisks us from 1969 to the present day.

Jeff McLaughlin's utilitarian set stands in ably for each decade with only minor changes in hairstyle portraits and a shuffling of magazines.  Allison Leach takes advantage of changing fashion to plant us in time, and she has way too much fun with Mike's togs.  Diane Matinous deserves some sort of special award for what can only be described as virtuoso wig wrangling.  The design work overall is very clean and consistent.  But there is one design component that really struck me.

The sound design (Martin Carrillo) is incredible.  The sound cue that takes us back to 1969 is a glorious mash-up of music and historic quotes that transport us to the time.  The transition from interstitial music over the speakers to in-scene music over a tiny clock radio is a very effective technique that puts us into each scene.  Even the phone rings from the phone's actual physical location in space.  Grounding us with such reality helps us track as the play whisks us from dialogue scenes to fourth-wall breaking monologues.

The cast latches tight onto the emotional lives of these characters and wring them for every drop.  They veer close to emotive excess at times, yet remain on the whole sympathetic and relatable.  Their evolution over time works, and I feel that we do "get to know" them over the course of the show.  Perhaps we don't get to know Rob Brownstein's Mike as well as Karen Austin's Candy, but that is rather the point of the play, I think.  Joanna Strapp is delightful as Sally.

I have a few specific issues.  Although the writer and director came up with clever staging solutions to work around the fact that you can't wash and cut an actor's hair in every scene every night, Mike is lacking a certain technical specificity as a hair stylist.  To wit (and perhaps the easiest "in" to fix this), he doesn't handle Candy's hair with the confidence and certainty of a professional stylist.  Handling another human being's hair can be intimate -- I marvel that people make a living of literally running their fingers through a stranger's hair! 

The blocking is at times aimless, seeming to grow out of directorial whim rather than the characters' immediate needs.  Candy's first entrance into the shop, for instance, as she floats at random around the shop, in contradiction to the numbness, the fresh trauma that is being expressed.  There needs to be more specificity in the blocking.

The age of the actors makes it a bit difficult to buy the age of their characters, particularly in the first couple of dialogue scenes.  This may fall under the category of "get over it" or in technical terms "willful suspension of disbelief," but it is what it is, and it works against them. 

There is a line and an action towards the end of the play that seems to indicate an impending end to the story, yet there is still more play to unfold.  Candy says "one day the old dog doesn't get up" and at that moment Mike stands and exits.  The dialectical action of text and movement in this moment communicates "Mike is dead."  Granted (and spoiler alert) this may be foreshadowing.  If that is the intent, it needs to be dialed back just a little bit, as it's a little too big a tip-off and feels like we're in the final moments of the play.

Finally, regarding the list at the end.  This is the payoff, but I think it is perhaps a little too dear to the playwright.  It could stand to be pared down.  The audience is ready to experience Candy's catharsis with her, but the moment is just a bit overwrought.  There must be a more elegant solution; a more economical way of conveying what Candy needs to say that also allows the audience to more fully share in the emotional climax.  It is a moment that I feel is earned, but doesn't quite arrive.

Regardless of these very specific things, Beautified is worth investing in.  It is a melancholy celebration of one man's life; a cool breeze of reflection that unfolds with a sweet free-verse telling.

Beautified goes up Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm.  Tickets are $29, or $17.50 for students and seniors.  Reservations by phone: (702) 582-8587 or online:  www.ktctickets.com.

The Skylight Theatre is located at 1816 V. Vermont in Los Feliz. There is quite a bit of street parking in the area, but arrive early enough to find it.  That part of Los Feliz (near the Los Feliz 3 Cinemas, Fred 62, etc.) gets a lot of traffic on weekend evenings.

Fellowship! The Musical Parody of "The Fellowship of the Ring"

Men and Hobbits  
(Matthew Young, Peter Allen Vogt, Cedric Yarbrough, Cory Rouse, Ryan Smith and Chris Tallman.)  
©Blake Gardner Photography 2012
Kumquat Inc., Lyle Kanouse, Anne Street Skipper, Sarah Dandashy in association with Trepany House at the Steve Allen Theater present The Remarkable Brass Group, LLC production

Review by Andrew Moore

Fellowship! is a broad, Mel Brooksian parody that riffs on Tolkien's book and Peter Jackson's movie.  This show has been drowned in awards, praise, sold-out houses and more critical brown-nosing than all the community newspaper ads in the world could possibly buy.  Which only makes me wonder:  Why invite Mad Theatrics out to see it?  What could we possibly add?  My conclusion:  They will not rest until they rule us all.

The design work is spartan but cleverly rendered. There are moments that reach the heights of cleverness, coming wonderfully close to Monty Python.  I'm thinking particularly of the Arwen/Nazg├╗l sequence, the Gandalf/Saurumon flashback, and the final battle.  Basically, if it was a set-piece in the movie, the team behind this play pulled out funny, theatrical solutions that leave the audience hot and sweaty with laughter

One design element that deserves special mention is the use of projections.  On a screen reminiscent of parchment, the prologue unrolls with clever visual jokes.  Throughout the play as the characters progress through Middle Earth, crisp and clean animations take us across a stylized version of the familiar Tolkien maps.  Fellowship! has the best integration of video projection this reviewer has seen in Los Angeles intimate theater.  Producers wishing to include such an element in their own shows would do well to see this show and chat up the production team for the name of their show control solution.  It is perfect.

I really dug into the cast bios at intermission, and found myself thinking, "Oh shit -- these guys know what they're doing."  Solid comedic pros with roots in improv and sketch, they play off each other with ease.  Even the understudies mesh.  I would not have known there were understudies in the show had it not been for the program insert.

Stand-outs:  Lisa Fredrickson who disappears into her beard as Gimli, Peter Allen Vogt who owns the audience as both Sam and the Balrog, and of course Cedric Yarbrough.  Yarbrough is having the time of his life as Gandalf and Galadriel, turning in an occasionally unhinged performance.  There is a sense of danger in his improvised lines and asides, but he never lets it get away from him.
The Balrog has the Blues ... (Peter Allen Vogt)  
©Blake Gardner Photography 2012

Joel McCrary holds the keys to this nuthouse, and he's gleefully letting the inmates out to play.  Oh, he doesn't let them go too far.  Like any good director of comedy, McCrary knows when to rein in the madness and when to let it reign supreme.

If this were simply an evening of great comedic actors cracking wise at Tolkien's expense, it would be enough.  But composer and co-lyricist Allen Simpson brought his considerable chops to the piece and it is filled with surprisingly intricate music -- themes that repeat, harmonies that ring, soulful descants that elevate the audience.

The lyrics are damned clever, the product (one assumes) of much collaboration, pitching and punching up of jokes, etc.  Given the number of co-lyricists credited (Brian D. Bradley, Lisa Fredrickson, Kelly Holden-Bashar, Joel McCrary, Edi Patterson, Steve Purnick, Cory Rouse, Ryan Smith, Peter Allen Vogt, Matthew Stephen Young, and the aforementioned Allen Simpson) my guess is they put the songs together the way a sketch comedy troupe would put together a show.  There is not one wasted opportunity.

In general, everyone attached to Fellowship! is striving to fill in the little moments; to take two very broad theatrical forms -- sketch and musical -- and make them specific and immediate.  It pays off in a show that is LIVE, in all capital letters.  

One issue that really needs to be resolved:  The show needs to be body mic'd.  I understand the difficulty this might present, given the rapidity and  number of costume changes, but there were moments when the lyrics were lost.  For someone familiar with the story (and who isn't familiar with the story?) this is a mere annoyance, but it's a shame to have any such moments in an evening as delightful as Fellowship! proves to be.

YOU SHALL NOT MISS!

Fellowship! The Musical Parody of "The Fellowship of the Ring" plays every Friday night at 8:00 pm and 11:00 pm through June 29th; and at least one Saturday night, June 2nd at 8:00 pm.  Admission is $30 for the 8:00 pm show, $25 for the 11:00 pm show. Students with IDs get in for $20. And if you come in costume, tickets are only $10. Thursdays and Sundays, $30 on Fridays and Saturdays.  Tickets are available online.  The Steve Allen Theater at the Center for Inquiry is located at 4773 Hollywood Blvd. in Hollywood, and has ample parking in a lot behind the building -- however, be aware that this is a very popular show, and the lot may fill up rather quickly.  Get there early.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Dropping a Line

As happens periodically, the mad geniuses behind Mad Theatrics are currently off doing half dozen things, some of which you can see right now: ... later tonight:
... and in the coming weeks. So yes, it's been about a week since we published anything. I know at least three of you are desperately awaiting our next bit of jaw-dropping insight into live entertainment. Soon, soon.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bobcat

It's making the rounds on Facebook, so you've probably seen it, but have you taken the time to read it?  Please do: "Better Off Dead: Or Why Quitting the Movie Industry Was My Path to Salvation" By Bobcat Goldthwait.

"Work with your friends. Avoid chasing fame or money. Just do what you want to do, when and how you want to do it. And if it’s not making you happy, quit. Quit hard, and quit often. Eventually you’ll end up somewhere that you never want to leave."  Hear, hear!

A Child Left Behind

written and performed by Alan Aymie
directed by Paul Stein
presented by The Katselas Theatre Company
Review by Phillip Kelly

Alan Aymie

Earnest is the first word that I would use to describe the new one man show A Child Left Behind. The writer and performer, Mr. Alan Aymie, wants you to understand and care about the failing school system as much as he does, and for the most part his earnestness is infectiousness. "Yes, let's do something! This is terrible!" I thought.  As a viewer, I don't even know where to begin to fix the problem, but that's not the point of the show. In a way this is Aymie's way of finding a catharsis for everything that he's been through as a teacher in Los Angeles and a father and the frustrations that came about while picketing the city when it seemed like no one would listen. He wants us to follow the same journey he's been on, as shared catharsis inspires others to, if not take action, then at least take notice.

Mixing his life as a teacher, his life as a father of a son with Asberger's syndrome and his inner struggle to stand up for his convictions, Aymie has brought these story threads together and crafted a solid show. At it's best it crackles with energy and tension. Any time Aymie goes into hyper drive, moving quickly around the stage as he tells us his day to day life in the school system it's exhausting and you can't help but applaud every school teacher that puts so much of themselves into every child's journey. He paints a thrilling, exhausting and emotionally moving portrait of the modern school teacher. And of the students. There are no bad guys. Or at least the ones that begin that way are given a voice and a dimension so that you understand the complexities of everything that's happening. You can't just point your finger at one person.

Of most interest, and the most telling of who Aymie is, is when we see him try and teach his son. A teacher unable to teach his son the most rudimentary of lessons, like to focus long enough to tie your shoe. It is heart wrenching. Many of his stories are, and he earns these moments, by being honest and vulnerable.

My only problem lies in the first several minutes of the play. Most of the personas Aymie takes on are palpable, if not slightly caricatured, which is fine. However, the earnest tone exceeds patience in the beginning when Aymie takes on some characters (including himself as a child) just for a laugh. It's an awkward moment and too grating an interpretation to find funny or grounded enough to find real.

The show runs a little bit longer and if you get a chance to see it, it's worth it. A portion of the proceeds go to benefit Generation Rescue.


A Child Left Behind
The Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 South Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Tickets and info: 702 KTC-TKTS (702-582-8587) or online at http://www.ktctickets.com/
The show plays through May 26th.
Cyrano
written by Stephen Sachs
inspired by Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand
directed by Simon Levy
presented by The Fountain Theatre and Deaf West Theatre

review by Phillip Kelly

Cyrano is a poet, plain and simple. Sure, he can fight, but first and foremost he is a ball of bridled passion that can string a series of words together to make any woman swoon, only he's made too insecure by his long nose to truly believe that any woman can fall in love with him.  But wait...writer Stephen Sachs has taken away the nose? I watch the stage skeptically. Even Steve Martin kept the nose in, I think to myself. That skepticism doesn't last long. Within minutes Troy Kotsur, the deaf actor that plays Cyrano, doesn't just win you over, but slaps you across the face with how talented he is, and despite some occasional flaws within the play, his performance envelops you and you're suddenly thrust along for the ride. 

In this version, no, it's not the nose that keeps him from his love, Roxy, but the hands. It is Cyrano's inability, as an ASL speaking person, to communicate clearly with a speaking person that he loves. He's a poet that uses his hands to speak and the woman he loves has no way of understanding. It's a simple, yet incredibly clever take on the Cyrano story.

I'm going to gush for a moment. This was freakin' awesome. Kotsur with the help of a couple ASL Masters, Tyrone Giordano and Shoshanah Stern and Levy, don't just use ASL to give a literal translation to Sach's well written words - they can't! It's two different languages. You see this occur between every spoken language. A metaphor written in words, has to be shown by the hands in a different way to get across the point. A whole sentence we hear spoken, could very easily be one single hand gesture. And let me tell you, those hand gestures, are a thing of beauty. Kotsur doesn't just sign, he uses his hands to perform, to dance, he integrates his emotionally expressive face, so even if someone wasn't translating, you get it! He pours his heart and soul into every gesture and every glance. It's a dance that takes place between gestures and emotions, and like some of the greatest silent actors, you don't need words to connect with what Kotsur is doing. It's really quite magical.

Another significant change, is the clumsy, oaf of a lover that first wins Roxy's affection and for whom Cyrano speaks, is now Cyrano's brother Chris, an aging, never quite famous heavy metal singer. Paul Raci embraces this incredibly flawed, but well intentioned and loving older brother - who in the end feels more betrayed by Cyrano than this character has in past versions. It's an interesting thing to see. You suddenly start to think that Cyrano is not a great guy. The cool thing is, Sachs, Levy and Kuster chose this. Cyrano is kind of a prick. He looks down on the local community of ASL speakers. He looks down on pretty much everyone. His inner demons attack those around him like a fencing sword with a very sharp point.

Kudos must be given to Victor Warren for helping bring Cyrano to life. When Kotsur is signing, Warren is the actor standing on the side of the stage giving Cyrano a voice for everyone who doesn't understand sign language. Warren, as an actor, has left his ego at the door and finds perfect synchronicity with Kotsur's performance. There's so much at work here, so many facets to what you're seeing, and Levy's direction has made it seamless.

Erinn Anova does a fine job portraying Roxy, the brothers' love interest. Though, for me, this is where Sachs lets the audience down. Roxy remains merely a love interest and never is allowed to fully blossom as a character unto herself. Who is she, other than an object of the brothers' love? We need to know who she is, with a little more dimension, with a little more understanding as to why Cyrano and Chris fall in love with her and stay in love with her. When Cyrano speaks of his love for her, it's not enough to simply know that she's beautiful and his poetry speaks to her soul.

The production cleverly uses video and sound design to set the scenes and mood and allows us to see text messages sent between actors. The set is hip and cool, befitting not only the modern poet, but also the fractured soul of Cyrano. There's was an even greater appreciation on my part when a small part of this set slid naturally out from the wall and magically became a bench. The costumes and lighting designers go for natural, and it works.

One of my favorite moments occurred when another deaf poet, Ipek Mehlum, was left on stage without a voice interpreter to deliver poetry and we were allowed to watch and appreciate. I would have liked a moment like this with Cyrano in trying to communicate with Roxy. Allowing the audience to feel his frustration, but that's neither here nor there. This show is worth the price of admission.

Cyrano presented by The Fountain Theatre and Deaf West Theatre
The Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90029 (Fountain and Normandie)
Tickets and info: 323-663-1525 or www.FountainTheatre.com

There is a cafe upstairs that opens about an hour before the show starts.
But there's also a cool little cafe down the street called LA Rose Cafe, about a block before Vermont.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Illusion

by Pierre Corneille
Adapted by Tony Kushner
 Presented by A Noise Within
Directed by Casey Stangl

Review by Phillip Kelly


I must admit it took me awhile to get to writing (and then publishing) this review. As a theatre artist I look for things that provoke or evoke a response, something that drives me to speak and continue a conversation. Whether it's a "positive" or "negative" review, I hope to enliven people to see the show and respect the artform, and while there was a lot of effort put into Casey Stangl's production, I was left unmoved to feel one way or the other, which is a strange place to be for me as a theatre artist and performer.

I'm not sure what it was exactly that kept me at a distance, the story itself is kind of a fairy tale, which I like: an aging aristocratic Father wishes to see what's become of his son who ran away years ago. He visits a Witch in hopes that she will be able to show him the events of his son's life. Over the next two hours we're shown, in stops and starts, the boy's presumed life. There's a lot of lessons learned, though not necessarily by the characters. It's the type of show in which an audience member learns from the truth presented through the way the characters respond or don't. I get it. I completely understand the show, the story, every angle - it just didn't connect with me on an emotional level or even a visceral level.

Could it be the source material? There are enough ideas there that it could be interesting. The translation? Kushner's words have moments of beauty, but also moments that are stilted. I haven't read the translation, so I'm not sure how much is dictated by the play itself. Which brings me to the direction. It breaks down into two categories: the acting and the tone. 

I'll begin with the tone: the production had a quality about it that was minimal and extravagant at the same time. I guess minimal in the sense that all of the work put into it didn't immerse me in the production. There were a few visual tricks that were great, but the sound design, while there, was simply there (And I get why.) It felt the same with the set. Some of the visual clues were clever, but those moments weren't enough to give a consistent weight to the production. The staging of the actors was so-so. Nothing profound and sometimes contrived. While you get the feeling that those moments are going to add up to something greater, and they do, those contrivances happen far too often and far too early on in the production. Much of the show is about presenting something that isn't real, hence the title, but that doesn't mean that things should settle on the side of artificial, which brings me to the direction of the actors.

There's an element of this production that needs to be artificial and much of this comes to life with the choices made between actors and director. Stangl certainly made choices. It's clear, and becomes even clearer as the show progresses. But the artifice that's explored isn't the exception for much of the show, but the go to and because of this, there's nothing real at all to connect to, to hold on to, to grow with. There's a point in which cleverness is only clever and to me clever only works when there's already something in place to twist.

There are some standout performances and moments within the production. Freddy Douglas, while even in those more artificial moments, grounds his shifting villain to the floor and is thoroughly enjoyable to watch. As the play progresses, Deborah Strang finds some moments as the Witch, Alcandre, especially in a highly poetic speech about love (which also shows off Kushner's talents). Abby Craden, as the devilish and manipulative attendant has some delicious moments. You get the feeling that Cornielle, and likewise Kushner, enjoyed writing the villains in this show a little more than the romantic couple leading the show. The lovers, Devon Sorvari and Graham Hamilton, embrace the choices and show themselves committed actors, but the sands shift so often to show us how clever it's tricks are, you never are able to get hold of it and truly care for the characters, and I think I just answered why I didn't connect with it as much as my intelligence told me I should have, and maybe you will. There's no right or wrong in this questionnaire, only opinion, and everyone should have one.

Playing though May 19th (2pm and 8pm on the 19th) 
at A Noise Within
3352 East Foothill Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91107
Tickets and info: 
626-356-3100 ext. 1
www.ANoiseWithin.org

Monday, May 14, 2012

It's All Happening

A while back I published a thought experiment called The Autonym.  It resulted in at least one person un-friending me on Facebook (good riddance) so I figured I must be onto something.

As it turns out -- as it always turns out -- a similar thing actually exists, in my own backyard.  It's called LAVA, the Los Angeles Visionaries Association:
ABOUT LAVA:  LAVA's creative partners come together in a spirit of collaboration and mutual support, of good will and trust. The shape of this organization and its programming are still evolving, but in addition to the monthly calendar and weekly emailed announcement list, community blog and shared publicity campaigns, we envision the creation of committees to oversee various types of programming (lectures, tours, screenings, music, performance, poetry, etc.), and opportunities for cross-pollination that will provide all of us with new audiences and unexpected new paths for our work. It would be helpful to start any discussion of what this entity is by making it clear that it does not exist.
Emphasis theirs.  They take part of their inspiration from the United Lodge of Theosophy, and I have to say, from my own experience, this is pretty brilliant:
They recite a declaration (short and simple) at each meeting which does two things: to affirm that the ULT does not exist, and to ensure that the simplicity, openess,  authenticity and focus of the group is made clear each time. This reminder makes it easier to respond to individuals who, a year or two into their work at the ULT, begin to make noises that they think the ULT should really be something else. So -- the ULT does not exist.
How does this compare to The Autonym?  Here's a snippet of what I wrote back in November of 2010:
We, the undersigned, agree to work together in creating works of art inspired by passion, under the banner of “The Autonym.”

Our participation in this association is entirely voluntary and at will. We owe no allegiance to The Autonym. We are not members of The Autonym. Rather, we align ourselves with each other, as individual artists and with mutual respect.
The Autonym has no bylaws, no logo, and no fixed location in space.
No such thing as an original thought, or brilliant minds think alike?

Anyway, their calendar is full of some really neat sounding tours, seminars, and rooftop screenings.  Not a whole lot of theatre, though.  Maybe someone should get on that.

Funny Because It's True

From XKCD:

 
Too true.

Friday, May 04, 2012

The Waxman Letters, #2

[NOTE: Letter # 1 may be found here. A new letter is published every Friday.]



My dear nephew Clive,

Our last phone conversation left me in the pits of depression, dear boy.  How it saddens me to hear your voice so heavy with self-doubt!  Believe me when I say, this fear you are experiencing is normal.  At the beginning of any great task, the heart blanches at the thought of failure -- worse, at the thought of success!

You are an intelligent boy, so I am certain you have considered this.  Your life will significantly change when you and your friends succeed in your endeavor.  Aside from laudets in the press, Ovation awards, and all the aclaim that is due a successful intimate theatre company, you will be faced with the responsibilities of grant management, celebrities asking to serve on your board of directors, and the very real possibility that Hollywood will take note of this astounding, talented coterie staging masterworks nightly in the Valley.  Indeed, dear Clive, it is very likely you will find yourself choosing between a continued run of Sylvia and a national commercial shoot.

As you know, my very own play, Cottonmouth was optioned by a film producer only last year!  Granted, it was more of a gentlemen's agreement.  (Come to think of it, I should rouse that fellow and see how his plans for pre-production are progressing.  He ought to be graduating from LMU this Spring.) 

I don't tell you this merely to stroke you, but rather to address the realistic expectations of theatrical success in Los Angeles that you ought to be nurturing .  It will take a lot of hard work, but I have every confidence that you will succeed.  Remember what Stanislavski said: "Love the art in yourself."  You have a lot to love, dear boy.

Kindest personal regards,

Mort Waxman

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Sukie and Sue: Their Story

Presented by The Blank Theatre

Review by Andrew Moore

Maybe if we got a little high, we could come up with a solution to our problems. Left to right: Lindsey Broad (Sukie), Rae Foster(Sue), and Lenny Jacobson (Sal)

Sukie and Sue: Their Story will not change your life, and that's okay.  The Blank Theatre has produced a delightful diversion, a ridiculous excursion into the high times of a couple of nurses who have a slight demon-possession problem.  The laughs are ample and the cast gleefully tackles Michael John Lachiusa's absurd new comedy.

Lindsay Broad (Sukie) is adorable, making the most of a character that is perhaps not as well-developed on the page as is her titular counterpart.  Lenny Jacobson brings a wonderful goofiness as Sukie's boyfriend (and dealer) Sal.  The rest of the ensemble shines:  Eddie Driscoll and Mackenzie Phillips in particular deliver up quirky, nuanced performances as Father Canary and the mystical Barbara, respectively.

Sue (Rae Foster, right) is about to do unspeakable things to Sal's (Lenny Jacobson, left) big toe.

Rae Foster (Sue) owns her stage.  Her comedic instincts are keen and she is fearless in her choices, even when those choices take her all the way down to Lenny Jacobson's big toe.  Sue is at times physically and emotionally drained and at times manic and on the verge of breakdown.  Foster navigates this emotional life with a wry sense of humor that never overstates itself.  She commits fully to Sue's reality, but the actress "gets" this character.  It's a joy to watch her play.

Kirsten Sanderson ably directs the cast, and there are some truly genius moments of physical comedy.  There are a few unmotivated blocking choices as well, but that's hard to fault -- the characters do spend the better part of the play high, and if it's one thing this reviewer has learned, potheads sometimes walk around aimlessly.  The only big issue I have are the clumsily executed transitions.  It seems an easy thing to fix:  a little more blackout, and perhaps bringing on a stagehand to swivel the counters in and out as needed. (This is nit-picking, and the kind of thing that probably only bothers a person who is watching the show with a critical eye.)

I can't help but feel that Michael John Lachiusa's script needs another draft.  Sukie is not as well defined as Sue, and it would be nice to see how she brings her job home with her.  Perhaps she babies Sue or Sal.  The  ending is a little long and a little pat.  After the rousing and riotous end of the prior scene, it's a bit anticlimactic.  To top it off, a hitherto unseen character makes an appearance in order to (literally) deliver the play's button, yet this character is not, herself, particularly revelatory.  In other words, there's not a strong reason why it has to be her.  The priest could have initiated the final tableau, or one of the other nurses.  There has to be a more economic, more impactful way of achieving the same effect.

Technical Director Stephen Weston delivers on the special effects.  In concert with Stephanette Isabel Smith's lights and Warren Davis' sound design, the compelling illusion of a demon-possessed Raggedy Ann Doll manifests before our eyes and ears.

But is it worth $26-$30 dollars?  Is it uncouth for a reviewer to review the ticket price?  Maybe, but here goes.  I know The Blank has expenses, and the rigging of the special effects was not cheap.  But this is an evening of light fare; a pleasing trifle, and I believe it is priced at about twice what it should be.  I hate to be crass, but maybe The Blank does a lot of business via Goldstar -- the show is listed there, and perhaps, like many other companies, they inflate their ticket price so that the Goldstar discount doesn't cut too deep.  Maybe.  I don't know.  What I do know is that this is a $13-$15 delightful evening of theatre.

Sukie and Sue: Their Story will haunt you Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8:00 pm; Sundays at 2:00 pm through June 3rd..  Admission is $26 Thursdays and Sundays, $30 on Fridays and Saturdays.  Tickets are available online at www.TheBlank.com, or by calling (323) 661-9827, but this reviewer recommends checking Goldstar.  Valet parking is available for the evening performances, but if you get there a little early, you should be able to find street parking.